Experts, Legislators Mull Alternative Ideas on Individual Mandate
Various lawmakers and health care experts are proposing ideas to replace the federal health reform law's individual mandate, which continues to face challenges in U.S. courts, CQ HealthBeat reports (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 2/4).
Recent Court Action
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the federal health reform law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, agreeing with plaintiffs in the multistate lawsuit against the overhaul that the mandate exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce (California Healthline, 2/1).
Other lawsuits also oppose the mandate, though the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on the matter (California Healthline, 11/9/10).
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) recently sent a letter to lawmakers saying that Congress should pass legislation allowing individuals to opt out of the mandate as long as they file an "affidavit of personal responsibility" for their own health costs. Under the proposal, patients would not be able to use bankruptcy law to reduce any health-related debt they accrue.
In addition, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) are considering alternatives that would provide financial incentives to individuals who purchase coverage during open-enrollment periods, in an attempt to prevent individuals from waiting until they are sick to buy insurance (CQ HealthBeat, 2/4).
Meanwhile, Jamie Court -- president of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog -- believes that federal and state governments simply need to keep insurance costs low if they want people to purchase health coverage. He noted that states could have more power in combating unjustified premium increases.
Health care expert and Princeton University professor Paul Starr said another option could be giving individuals an opportunity to opt out of buying coverage, as long as they know they will not be eligible for many of the benefits of the reform law.
He said if people choose to remain uninsured, "you won't be eligible to opt back in and get any of the benefit of the subsidies or use new health insurance exchanges or buy without pre-existing conditions exclusions" (Rovner, NPR, 2/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.